The response to the military takeover in Egypt cast a long shadow over European states’ support for democratic values in the MENA region.
The EU’s objectives on the rule of law, human rights, and democracy in the MENA region for 2013 are unchanged from last year. In particular, it aims to protect fundamental rights in the transitions in Tunisia and Egypt; to support the construction of a democratic state in Libya; to push Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan towards political reform; to maintain a consistent line on the rule of law with the Gulf states; and to call for accountability in the Syrian conflict. However, the situation in Egypt changed dramatically in 2013. Not only did the military takeover in Egypt in July expose the continued dominance of the unreformed deep state there, but also the European decision to co-operate with General Sisi’s regime to try to convince it of the benefits of a reformist approach has clouded the EU’s engagement with transitions across the region. It sent a strong signal to other neighbouring countries that the EU had little commitment to supporting human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.
The EU also struggled to support a broader enabling environment for democracy to take root. Tunisia remains a democratic leader, and the EU faces less competition as a partner for co-operation there, which is rightly recognised in allocation of EU funds. However, the transition in Tunisia is delicately balanced, with ongoing political violence and a turbulent neighbourhood. In Libya, progress in the development of a constitution was overshadowed by a crisis of state authority and a rapidly declining security situation on which the EU has failed to impact. While relations with Algeria and Morocco remained stable, the EU was unable to leverage reforms either in the political field or on the socio-economic factors that continue to threaten stability across the region. Jordan, which has been hard-hit by the refugee crisis from the Syrian conflict, was not in a position to prioritise internal reform.